Describing the Human Rights Watch report on rights violation as "totally false, baseless and imaginary," the government has said the rights body made the allegations as part of an international conspiracy.
In a statement, the home ministry yesterday demanded that the HRW withdraw the report that called upon the government to immediately halt the February 2009 BDR mutiny trial and disband the Rapid Action Battalion.
Meanwhile, three ministers in separate programmes on Thursday and yesterday said the HRW report amounted to "interference in the internal affairs of the country".
On July 4, the New York-based rights body in a report said the mass trial of the BDR mutiny suspects was fundamentally flawed and that the accused were subjected to gross human rights violations.
It also demanded that the government form a special independent commission to investigate the custodial deaths and torture of BDR (now BGB) soldiers and take action against human rights violations by the members of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and other intelligence agencies.
Two days after, the home ministry in its official reaction said, "The government hopes the Human Rights Watch will withdraw its report and remarks so that those responsible for the heinous murder of 74 people, including 57 army officers, can be punished through a fair trial."
The mutiny trial is being hold in a “fair and transparent manner” under the existing law of the country and the accused are enjoying all types of legal support, including rights to appoint lawyers to defend themselves, the ministry said.
It also termed "totally baseless" the HRW allegations that the accused mutineers were abused and tortured by the Rab, saying that the elite force was not involved in any process of the trial, including investigation.
Meanwhile, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed on Thursday said “We reject this report right away…it's false and baseless…. This is meddling in the internal affairs of a country.”
After a meeting with a three-member HRW delegation led by its Asia Executive Director Brad Adams at the ministry, Shafique said no non-government organisation can make any remark on the internal matter of any county, reports UNB.
“We believe in the rule of law and urged them [the delegation] not to release such reports in future,” the minister was quoted by the UNB.
On the HRW's suggestion to disband Rab, Shafique said, “It's completely our own affairs whether we'll continue Rab or disband it.”
There is no miscarriage of law in holding the war crimes and the BDR mutiny trials, he added.
Asked about his discussion with the delegation, Shafique said he had been able to explain the real situation to the HRW members as they had no clear idea about many things. “They made this report because of their lack of knowledge about many things in Bangladesh.”
Also on Thursday, Home Minister Shahara Khatun termed the HRW report an "intervention" and said, “Such interference by the Human Rights Watch was not fair.”
The government and the people of the country hail Rab for its role in checking militancy and criminal activities, said Shahara at a police programme in the capital.
Yesterday, Suranjit Sengupta, minister without portfolio, said the HRW report was “mischievous and an intervention in the internal matter of a country”.
Addressing a discussion organised by Bangabandhu Sangskritik Jote in the capital's Public Library, Suranjit said the BNP-led government had formed the Rab and the US had trained the elite force.
“The Human Rights Watch has all of a sudden called upon the government to disband Rab. Who has given them [HRW] the right to raise such a demand,” said the veteran leader of the ruling Awami League.
It was for the government to decide whether or not to disband Rab, he noted and hoped the rights body would maintain internationally recognised norms in making comments in future.
Rab and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) also criticised the HRW report.
It may be mentioned that a Dhaka court is holding trial of over 800 border force jawans and 23 civilians on charges of killing, arson, theft, looting, disposing bodies by dumping or burying in mass graves during the February 25-26, 2009 mayhem at Pilkhana in the capital.
On mutiny charges, about 4,000 BDR members have so far been sentenced to different terms in jail ranging from three months to seven years by special courts. Trial of some 2,000 jawans on similar charges is going on in four special courts set up at the BGB headquarters.
According to the HRW report, at least 47 detained border force members died in custody. Some of them might have died of natural causes but others succumbed to custodial torture, said Brad Adams, executive director of HRW in Asia.